Government eyes non-NDA parties, walkouts to clinch triple talaq bill

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Times of India, July 29, 2019

The government and the opposition are gearing up for a fresh test of will and numbers in Rajya Sabha over the bill to make triple talaq or instant divorce among Muslims punishable, with the ruling side banking on possible abstentions, walkouts and support of a few non-NDA, non-UPA parties.

The government has been bolstered by its success in overcoming its “hoodoo” in the Rajya Sabha, where a lack of majority has allowed the opposition to repeatedly stall legislation, with the passage of amendments to the Right to Information Bill last week with the help of parties like the BJD, TRS and the YSRCP.

But the challenge is steeper for the triple talaq bill with NDA partner Janata Dal(U) not supporting the bill+ and other parties likely to have reservations over a legislation that has drawn the ire of the Muslim clergy and political leaders. Government managers feel that a walkout by JD(U), like it did in Lok Sabha, will serve their purpose. Among parties that backed the RTI amendments, YSRCP has said its two MPs will vote against the bill. BJP floor managers are looking at several scenarios, including walkouts or abstentions by parties like AIADMK and TRS. The parties did not oppose the bill in Lok Sabha, but their numbers were of little consequence. The support of BJD is more likely and could well prove to be the tipping point.

The numbers in the House, however, are slowly tilting in favour of the Modi government aided by defections such as four TDP MPs who recently joined the BJP+. The overall party-wise tally in the upper House has moved towards the ruling alliance.

Though the triple talaq bill is yet to be listed, it is likely to be taken up this week. The government strategy seems to be to make a determined push for its passage but is willing to face a defeat and state that its commitment to the bill is unchanged. It hopes this will allow it to make a political point to its base that it is determined to reform personal laws and also claim that it stands for gender justice with regard to Muslim women.

The NDA’s heightened confidence lies with its strength in the current House now being 113, including 12 nominated members and independents who may go with the government during crucial division of votes. If the ruling alliance gets the support of BJD (seven members) and TRS (six), it will be able to cross the halfway mark.

Though the majority mark in the actual current strength of the upper House would be 121, it will be reduced to 118 if JD(U) decides not to be present in the House during voting. It will drop further if AIADMK and TRS decide to walk out too.

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